As she promised in committee last week, Senator Phyllis Heineman (R-13/Sioux Falls) voted yesterday against House Bill 1182, the funding for historic 20% pay raises for South Dakota teachers. Senator Heineman will ask House Appropriations this morning for some sour-grapes solace, passage of Senate Bill 159, her reheated stealth voucher plan.
SB 159 unconstitutionally launders public money to fund private school tuition by giving insurance companies credits on their premium and annuity tax for granting “scholarships” for private K-12 school tuition to low-income students.
It seems odd that Senator Heineman would single out insurance companies as the only entities eligible to participate in her scheme to drain kids and money from the public schools. Statutorily, SB 159 is a simple plan, since insurance companies have a convenient state income tax from which we can make these tax expenditures. But why not include banks in the plan? Banks pay their franchise tax (South Dakota has corporate income taxes; we just don’t dare call them that), which would be as easily creditable as the insurers’ premium and annuity tax. Businesses of all stripes pay property tax; Senator Heineman could write a levy reduction into SB 159 for any scholarship-granting business. Senator Heineman could even create a sales tax exemption card: write a check to a private school, and the state sends you a little punch card allowing you to make X-dollars worth of purchases without paying sales tax. (Remember, SB 159 can’t just write private school scholarship donors a check, because then the unconstitutional expenditure of public dollars for religious education would be far too obvious.)
An eager reader offers a simpler explanation for Senator Phyllis Heineman’s singular favor to the insurance industry:
D. Greg Heineman, founder and owner since 1972 of Williams Insurance, past president of the Sioux Falls Catholic Schools Foundation, past chairman of Advanced Gifts for the O’Gorman High School Building Funding Drive, and 43-year husband of Senator Phyllis Heineman.
Senator Phyllis Heineman pitches her bill to give her husband and herself an opportunity for thousands of dollars in state tax credits this morning at 8 a.m. in Large Conference Room 1, third floor of the Capitol in Pierre.